Article: Hybrid work can create a risk of exclusion: Deloitte's Global Chief People & Purpose Officer


Hybrid work can create a risk of exclusion: Deloitte's Global Chief People & Purpose Officer

Deloitte's Global Chief People & Purpose Officer, Michele Parmelee, talks to People Matters about the why and how of focusing on flexibility, inclusion and allyship as leaders gear up for a hybrid work environment.
Hybrid work can create a risk of exclusion: Deloitte's Global Chief People & Purpose Officer

Michele Parmelee is Deloitte’s Global Deputy CEO and Chief People & Purpose Officer. Michele leads a broad portfolio of programmes that enhances Deloitte’s global brand, reputation, and talent experience in support of their global strategy. She leads Deloitte’s purpose agenda by driving their commitment to living their shared values; enhancing global diversity and inclusion efforts; achieving their ambition to impact 100 million people; and building a more sustainable world through our WorldClimate program.

In addition, Michele leads the Offices of the Deloitte Global CEO and Deloitte Global Programs. She is a member of the Deloitte Global Executive Committee. Michele is a Deloitte US principal and in her 23rd year with Deloitte. Prior to joining Deloitte Global in June 2015, Michele was the secretary of the Deloitte US board of directors and led the Office of the Chairman. 

In this exclusive interview with People Matters, Michele talks about Deloitte’s 75,000 strong hiring plan for India, the why and how of leadership championing allyship, and Deloitte’s assessment of workplace opportunities and risks in a hybrid work environment.

Here are excerpts of the interview:

Deloitte's Global CEO Punit Renjen was recently honoured as Global Indian of the Year 2021. In his acceptance speech, he shared that India was key to Deloitte's growth strategy. How is this focus influencing strategies around talent attraction, engagement and retention for the firm?

Investing in India and its people will continue to be an integral part of Deloitte’s long-term strategy.

Our investments include hiring significant numbers of new professionals, which will create 75,000 jobs in the country in the coming years, and investing hundreds of millions of dollars in new service offerings, technology, innovation, quality enhancements, and people.

We will also continue to hire a significant number of chartered (certified) accountants and graduates from a wide variety of fields for various new and traditional services offered by Deloitte in India and globally—assurance, Risk Advisory, Financial Advisory (M&A, restructuring/insolvency, Forensics), technology services, consulting, Tax and Transfer Pricing.

India is also an important focus of our societal impact work.  At Deloitte, we believe we have a responsibility to be a force for good and lead the way on the increasingly complex challenges society faces—and our people expect us to make an impact in the communities where we live and work. In India, we have worked to expand access to quality education for some of the country’s most underserved populations – women and girls. Through our WorldClass initiative, we work with three prominent NGOs (Pratham, Udayan Care, and Katha) to positively impact the lives of 10 million women and girls in India.  

The question of inclusion at the workplace remains under the spotlight. Do you see this growing as a business agenda or does it still remain an HR agenda?

A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is a growing business agenda item and has been for some time.

Embedding inclusion into the fabric of the organisation is not just the right thing to do, it's the right business thing to do.   

Organisations that go beyond HR policies and programs to create a workplace environment where people can bring their whole selves to work and feel supported will reap the benefits and gain a competitive advantage. Indeed, we know from our own research that companies that create a truly respectful and inclusive culture see higher levels of employee motivation, productivity, and retention.

At Deloitte, we want everyone to feel they can be themselves and thrive at work—in every country, in everything we do, every day. Fostering inclusion is one of our shared values and intrinsic to our global purpose to make an impact that matters—for our people, for our clients and the societies in which we live and work.

Leadership buy-in is crucial to put human and financial investment into DEI strategies. But that's not enough. DEI needs to find acceptance among the larger workforce. How can leaders champion this initiative?

First, leaders need to set the tone from the top. This means leading by example and being clear about the behaviour that is expected as part of a truly inclusive workplace culture.

Allyship is another key component whereby senior leaders show up as visible and vocal allies for underrepresented groups. We are all a sum of our parts and experiences and leaders can serve as role models to remind us that it’s up to all of us to be allies—even when it’s not easy. 

Additionally, we know that what gets measured gets done. For example, Deloitte’s Global Executive and Board have committed to a number of global diversity goals.

Progress towards diversity goals is measured through a formal assessment to hold leaders accountable for their focus and effort in delivering our global inclusion strategy.

Progress on diversity goals—using these measures—is regularly discussed at executive meetings.

How has employee well-being evolved for Deloitte in the past two years? How do you view leveraging technology to boost wellness when the workforce demands a digital detox?

The last two years have brought the importance of well-being, including a focus on mental health in the workplace, to the fore.

Deloitte Global’s 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey revealed that stress and burnout are alarmingly high among both generations, likely factors behind the Great Resignation. 

The Great Resignation has empowered many workers to demand sustained changes, including higher compensation, more meaningful and flexible work, increased action to address climate change, and an increased focus on well-being.

At Deloitte, we have invested significant time helping Deloitte professionals better understand mental health challenges and address and reduce the stigma that’s often attached to poor mental health. These efforts to educate about and improve mental health and well-being have been delivered and supported by leveraging technology through virtual workshops, podcasts and other communications.  

As new ways of working emerge, including hybrid environments for many people, focusing on “moments that matter” for in-person connection and collaboration is an important way to balance the demands of a virtual working environment. 

Finally, additional chances to disconnect and prioritise life outside of work is another meaningful way for organisations to support their employees. 

What is your advice for leaders, as they revamp business and worktech models for the rapidly changing world of work?

Leaders need to approach hybrid working and the rapidly changing world of work with inclusion and flexibility in mind. Deloitte’s Women @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook report demonstrated that while hybrid working presents an opportunity for employers—and employees—it can also create a risk of exclusion for those not physically present. 

Employers must ensure that hybrid working works for all, not just those who are physically present.

This means ensuring that employees clearly understand what is expected of them—for example, through team agreements on ways of working—and training leaders to lead meetings and interactions in a way that includes all present, whether in person or remote. It also means ensuring that those not physically present have much-needed access to leaders and sponsors.

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Topics: Diversity, Culture, #WorkTech, #HybridWorkplace

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